Will Yoga Wreck YOU?

This special report was prompted by your questions since January 5, when The New York Times Magazine featured this article: "How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body."

Before answering the question, here are a couple of analogies, corny or useful? You decide.

Exercise is a like a power tool. Learn how to use it and you can make something beautiful, use it improperly and you can cause damage.

Learning to use the gym is like learning a new language. It goes better and faster with repetition and as much professional help as you can get to master the basics.

Yoga isn't much different from any sort of group exercise class or exercise program, which I wrote about last February. If you carefully select the right exercises for you, do them properly, get rest in between workouts and don't overdo it, you've probably got very little to worry about and will see great results. Make wrong choices and you could be headed for trouble.

The idea that anyone can walk into a class and safely pursue an exercise program is questionable. Surely some people can, and class instructors are great with groups and love teaching classes.

When taking classes, it's wise to ask the instructor for assistance and recommendations when you begin, as you want to progress, if you have any injuries, or if you have difficulty with certain parts of the class. Sometimes this works, but those great instructors who teach classes or specialize in one training modality might not have the time, experience or education to help you with individualized assessment, program design and progression. In those cases, you may need to look elsewhere for help.

I've enjoyed taking classes and am a certified group exercise instructor. I rarely teach classes because I prefer to focus on careful, individualized exercise prescription, injury prevention, and proper form. It is not possible to do this for a group, everyone has different special needs or issues. This type of personalized approach can be a smart compliment to group classes or specialty training.

The group format encourages people to overdo it as they try to keep up with the class and impress the instructor. "There's enormous peer pressure in exercise classes. One-on-one training can be helpful in overcoming this," according to my client Jada Turco, MD, a psychiatrist and holistic practitioner with The Center for Integrative Psychiatry. "It gave me the knowledge and confidence to go into classes and decide which exercises weren't right for me and which to modify."

Bottom line: Make smart choices, know yourself and your limits, get professional input. Consider more individualized training to get the best results and reduce risk of injury

You Made the Resolution to Exercise, Now What?

Every year I'm encouraged to see hundreds of people who succeed in making fitness a part of their lives, and end up better for it. They enjoy a healthier lifestyle, feel better and look better, and hopefully live longer too.

The two biggest barriers I see people encountering are unrealistic expectations and maintaining consistency. It is easy to be discouraged when you don't instantly pick up new things, struggle with the effort, don't see results quickly enough, or find it difficult to work exercise into your schedule. But is there any question that if you do stick with it you will be better off?

Keep these facts in mind to keep you going:

Burn 3500 calories (or eat 3500 fewer) to lose a pound of fat.

Exercise at least 150 minutes per week to maintain health and body composition, preferably 30 minutes per day for at least 5 days according to the American College of Sports Medicine.

It takes about 16 exercise sessions over several weeks to increase the size of muscle according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

You cannot spot reduce <, according to the American Council on Exercise. Focus on aerobic and strength training to burn calories so that the body draws on stored fat.

See your doctor before beginning an exercise program.

How To Stick To Your New Fitness Program
6 Tips to Keep You On Track
Originally Published in January 2010

#1 make an appointment with yourself and stick to it. Adherence to the program is your biggest challenge, put your appointments in your calendar and don't cancel

#2 clearly define your goals, be realistic, and break them up into small, achievable pieces. This gives the opportunity for positive reinforcement along the way

#3 meet with a qualified professional to assess your needs and abilities, and develop a program that is appropriate for you. The exercises you did 10 years ago on the basketball team (or before your shoulder injury) are no longer appropriate

#4 don't overdo it. Start slowly - half of all new gym members have an injury in the first 6 months, the last thing you need is to get benched for a month or two

#5 be prepared to change your program after 4-6 weeks. Your body adapts to your routine during this time and will need an additional challenge for continued results

#6 keep it interesting and have fun. Whether it is a workout buddy, a class or a trainer that gets you interested and motivated, this is really important to keeping you coming back.


Jump Start Your Exercise Program

FACT #1 - The bigger the muscle, the more calories you will burn working it. And bigger muscles burn more calories at rest.
FACT #2 - Resistance training (weights or body weight) builds muscle fibers, Cardiovascular training increases blood flow into the trained muscles (oxygen supply) and can build one muscle:  the heart.
FACT #3 - You cannot spot reduce, so select exercises based on their overall effectiveness for best results.
FACT #4 - When resistance training, muscle repairs and grows when you rest, you need 24 hours off after working a muscle group.

For the next few weeks, the focus is on working the big muscles groups - the primary muscles of the Legs, Back, Chest.  The Arm and Shoulder muscles will get worked along with these larger muscle groups, but we don't need to emphasize them at this time. 

Resistance and Cardio training are done on alternating days.  Our goal is to get in 2 or 3 resistance training sessions per week, and cardio sessions on the in between days.  You need both:  doing cardio for your legs does not build muscle in your legs. Depending on your fitness level, the cardio days should include 30-60 minutes.  Yes, more cardio is better!

The new Jump Start Program includes circuits of Leg, Back and Chest exercises and lots of lunges.  (If you can't do lunges, substitute leg press or squats).  A quick alternative is the Hurry Up Program, which focuses on total body exercises, such as the chest press/lunge or lat pull own/reverse lunge.  Both are done circuit style with no rest in between exercises. 

If you haven't been to the gym for a while, see a fitness professional or doctor before beginning a new exercise program, and be careful not to overdo the intensity in circuit training.


Sweet 16 - Push Up Progressions

How many kinds of pushups can you think of?  A generic pushup is included in the new Jump Start Program - now some of you may pushups a bit challenging, others may find it boring or not particularly challenging.  

How do you make a push up harder?  Make it less stable so you have to use your deep core muscles more.  After all, a push up is a plank with an up and down motion. My own clients range from those doing "girl pushups" to those doing push ups on 2 stability balls or 4 medicine balls.  For an illustrated guide to 16 more different variations of the pushup from easier to harder click here. 

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